• Christine

From the Guest Book

Updated: Jul 31

Here's a post with words directly from our Helios guests. It is presented in reverse chronological order and will get updated periodically as people navigate the logistic challenges of catching up with us.


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Guest #14: Lindsey Simonson

Dates: July 14 - 22

Location: Sardinia

Background: This was Lindsey's second trip on our boat, after joining us in January in St. Lucia. We were so thrilled to have her back with us again!!!



What was your favorite part of the trip?


My favorite part of my trip was definitely the clear water and sandy sea floor, with hundreds of essentially identical fish.

What was your least favorite part of the trip?

My least favorite part of the trip was walking to the airport at four in the morning What surprised you most?

Nothing really surprised me- I'm pretty used to the boat by now What was something you learned about sailing?

I didn't learn anything about sailing since we mostly were anchored Advice for future guests:

I'd advise future guests to be prepared to get dragged into card games at least a couple times a day by my family



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Guest #13: Paige Collins

Dates: July 3-14

Location: Corsica-Sardinia

Background: Megan's friend since forever. Fun fact: Paige also joined us when we chartered our first 52ft Lagoon sailboat in the BVIs in 2019!


What was your favorite part of the trip?


Swimming in the ocean, sailing, and exploring the little towns


What was your least favorite part of the trip?


Mixed waves almost making me seasick

What surprised you most?


Just how much went into sailing. I noticed how you were all just always watching the charts, and it was habit to know what type of sail to use and what to do.


What was something you learned about sailing?


I learned a lot about sailing and how all of the lines work. I also tried a lot of new foods!


Advice for future guests: Wear sunscreen and don't forget to reapply. Always let go of the lines if they start to release fast. Play Crazy Americans.


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Guest #12: Lexi Jaster

Dates: June 28 - July 1

Location: Genoa - Portofino

Background: Our niece, Lexi, currently works in Madison, WI for a biotechnology company. She stopped by for a brief visit prior to joining the rest of her family vacationing in Greece.



What was your favorite part of the trip?


I really liked traveling from Genoa to Portofino! Even though it wasn’t an official “sail” since it wasn’t windy enough, it was still very scenic and a relaxing day for sure!


What was your least favorite part of the trip?


Probably the transportation between the boat and airport, ended up being a longer than anticipated journey but somehow ended up just barely making my flight.

What surprised you most?


How much stuff fits in the boat- really takes advantage of all the storage space!


What was something you learned about sailing?


I learned about the software that tracks all of the boats/shows the route/etc, which was very cool!



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Guest #12: Kari Simonson

Dates: April 22 - June 3

Location: St. Thomas - Bermuda - The Azores - Gibraltar

Background: Kari is Dale's younger sister and this was her second time on Helios. Her first trip was with her family as a pre-curser to crewing for the Atlantic crossing, which was a vastly different experience.



What was your favorite part of the trip?


I actually had 2 favorite parts! The first was swimming and paddle boarding in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on dead calm days with huge, rolling swells. It was simply mind-boggling and indescribable to be swimming in gorgeous, azure water that’s 5,000 meters deep.


My other favorite moment was seeing dolphins swimming and playing in bioluminescent water off the bow of the boat one night at about 2:00 a.m. It was magical! The dolphins left streaks of greenish light in the water, and I could see their body shapes outlined in bioluminescence. I was alone on night-watch and, since we were motoring on autopilot with no sails up, I could lay on the front net and watch while they played for about 30 minutes.


What was your least favorite part of the trip?


It was tough having very short stops on land as we struggled to keep to the schedule for dropping off and picking up crew members. What little time we had in port was a frenzy of cleaning and repairing the boat, doing laundry, and reprovisioning food. As a result, I had very little time to explore Bermuda or the Azores. Fortunately, I had time at the end of the crossing in Gibraltar (U.K.) and Malaga, Spain, both of which were wonderful!


What surprised you most?


I was unexpectedly surprised at how much fun it was experiencing a storm with 5-6 meter seas, sustained winds in the mid-40 knot range, with a gust of 50 knots! Helios sped up to almost 20 knots at one point, which was a new boat record. I was really impressed with what the boat could withstand with both wind and waves.


While the storm day was stressful from a watchfulness standpoint - trying to anticipate any problems and ensure nothing would go wrong - it was surprising how you eventually got used to the wind, the rocking, and the boat creaking. Of course, it didn’t really become truly “fun” until after it was over and we knew we’d come out of the storm with no damage, unlike many boats we met in the Azores.


What was something you learned about sailing?


I learned that catamarans don’t sail into the wind very well! We really struggled with headwinds because Helios can’t sail very close into the wind, so tacking back and forth gets you almost nowhere.


We tried tacking into a headwind on the first leg from US Virgin Islands to Bermuda, but we ended up having to motor to arrive in Bermuda on time. Even with motoring, we barely made it - poor Andrea had only about 3 hours to spend in Bermuda before her flight left!


Any other comments for future guests?


If you ever get the chance to sail across the Atlantic, do it!



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Guest #12: Siri Anderson

Dates: May 2-May 18

Location: Bermuda - The Azores

Background: Siri is a good friend of Dale's sister, Kari, and is part of the all-female crew crossing the Atlantic.


Below is a small section of Siri's journal that she wrote in every day:


Tuesday, May 17, 2022

For the last three days Helios proved her sea-worthiness in brag-worthy 5-6 meter waves, some gale force winds, and a few impressive bursts of rain. Our course allowed us to sail perpendicular to the prevailing winds and or slightly downwind at first, then shifted for a slightly upwind sail.

Naturally, the strong winds required reefing both the mainsail and jib. This is made easier with four powerful winches, but still requires acrobatics and bravery on behalf of the crew and/or, in our case, the captain.

Each time we add a reef to the mainsail Skip climbs up on to the boom and then crawls out to the very end of the boom to add a cheat, a short line between the reef line and the boom. This has him perched 20 feet above the water swinging back and forth and sometimes getting lifted into the air off the boom. While dangling in this position he reaches underneath the boom and threads a cheat sheet (teehee) through an open D-ring, which he cannot see from his position.

Kari snaps in to the rail around the upper deck and, standing on the outside of the bimini, coaches Skip on the direction of the D ring while relaying his messages back to First Mate Megan who is always at the helm. The ritual interaction between Skip and Megan prior to this procedure is fun to watch as Skip confirms the heading and need to avoid unintentionally jibing while he is suspended in the canopy of the sail. What trust!

The reefing options include six lines beyond the halyard and topping lift. That makes 8 lines to manage as you are putting the sail into place for the desired set up. I regret that I didn’t ask for clarification earlier in the trip as to the leech and luff reefing lines, which make total sense if you know anything about a sail, but only if your brain connects what you know with what you are looking at, which with 8 lines in what appears to be a random order, just did not happen for me.

The goal of the acrobatics is to protect the reef lines from premature shredding, which is admirable in the scope of costs incurred and the level of daring necessary to achieve it.

One of the joys of this strong sea sailing has been speed. With increased speed we will easily arrive in Horta during the daylight a day earlier than projected earlier in the voyage.

Another delight has been the number of dolphin pods that have joined us each day. They slip effortlessly along the hulls and play in ways that both thrill and scare. They dart back and forth just in front of Helios formidable frame, seeming to enjoy the displaced water and the chance to surf. They make excellent synchronized swimmers and entertain us for a few minutes to an hour with various acts of camaraderie and play.




Guest #11: Andrea Murrill

Dates: April 24-May 2

Location: St. Thomas USVI to Bermuda

Background: Andrea is a good friend of Dale's sister, Kari, and is part of the all-female crew crossing the Atlantic.



To be included on a leg of the Atlantic crossing was an opportunity of a lifetime. The Simonson crew of Skip, Megan, and Kari welcomed me as part of the family and I immediately felt at ease taking on the sizable upgrade of a 14-foot Sunfish to the 52-foot Lagoon. What I didn't expect was the impact that modern technology has on sailing. I certainly didn't expect to be sailing on autopilot and hence lovingly called Helios "The Self Driving Tesla of The Sea." The navigation screen and terminology were a bit intimidating yet Skip and Megan were more than understanding and patient during my sailing learning curve. One night on my shift the autopilot went out. I deeply appreciated that while I was in a panic, Skip was able to find the humor in the fact that not only did I sail Helios into a full circle, but I also somehow managed to make it do a figure 8 before heading us back on course to Bermuda. Personally, I like to think it was the Bermuda Triangle playing with me and I bravely sailed us out of that mystic mess with no harm done ;)


The most unexpected part of the trip was both the physical and psychological personal re-set that happened. The ocean is my love, rocking and cradling me. I was reminded of its strength with the slapping on the hulls and the rocking swells that jolt an awakening into ones bones. Then the aqua marine blue calm and clarity smiles its graces upon you. There is so much life and wonderment both above and below the ocean surface. The night watches were also a time of deep solitude while the rest of the crew slept and it was just Helios, me, the vast ocean, and the twinkle of the night sky. It is hard not to sit and contemplate one's life and one's role in this world. We even tossed our worries we had written on a Dominoes pizza box out to the sea. It was a healing experience that I needed as the ocean has always replenished my soul.


I warned Kari that bringing 2 Costco sized containers of Sanders Salted Caramels would do me in. It was my night watch downfall to treat myself to a serving (or three) for safely getting through the shift. It was fun teaming up for cooking and eating new meals and enjoying my morning Chai on the flybridge. My daily riding the waves on the bow pulpit seat is a cherished activity that I miss. I appreciated Skip and Megan letting me crash their Rummy 500 card games and that the rocking of the boat didn't affect my ability to read and lounge with my books. My section of the crossing was tropical and the daily sun and warmth a welcome after the long Minnesota winter. Even while gaining my sea legs during the first couple of days I asked Skip what happens if I end up not wanting to leave and with a chuckle he suggested it may be too early to determine that. But it wasn't and it was hard to leave. I am beyond grateful for the adventure that I experienced and the warmth and education I gained from the Helios and Simonson crew.



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Guests #10: Kari, Dan, Alma & Liam

Dates: April 2 - April 9

Location: St. Thomas/St.John/St. Croix

Background: Kari is Dale's younger sister and her husband Dan, was one of the crew members on the Atlantic Crossing from the Canary Islands to Grenada. Kari will be part of the crew on the Atlantic Crossing from Bermuda back to Gibraltar. Alma is a high school freshman and Liam is in 8th grade.



What was your favorite part of the trip?


Kari: The scenery! The USVI water colors were absolutely fantastic and the weather was lovely. And it was great hanging out with my family and my brother’s family in such a relaxed setting for a whole week. We missed you, Lindsey!


Dan: Watching my teenagers giggle like little kids riding the waves! Also, seeing a school of large tarpon in the underwater lights at the stern of the boat. Super cool.


Alma: Sitting on the front of the boat while crashing through big waves, and seeing the coral reefs.


Liam: Probably snorkeling off of Buck Island and seeing cuttlefish.


What was your least favorite part of the trip?

Kari: When we had to have the hatches closed, it got too hot and stuffy belowdecks very quickly. I’m a cold weather girl, so I found even a quick trip to the head uncomfortably warm.


Alma: Salty hair is unpleasant.


Liam: Cutting myself with a knife then swimming in salt water


What surprised you most?

Kari: I’m surprised at how dizzy I’m feeling being back on land! I guess I got used to the rocking of the boat, and now my brain is confused again being on stable ground. Unfortunately, that probably means I’ll have to go through the acclimation process again when I’m back on the boat in 2 weeks to start the Atlantic crossing.


Alma: I was surprised by the number of big fancy boats.


Liam: The amount of things that doubled as drawers.


What was something you learned about sailing?

Kari: Certain aspects of sailing on a catamaran are very different from a monohull. Pros: I really liked not heeling over while sailing on a reach. Cons: Wave slap on a catamaran is really loud! Even though Dan had warned me, it was really surprising how the whole boat shuddered when pounding into the waves. I’m worried about being able to sleep through that during the crossing.


Alma: I learned that a lot of it can be computerized.


Liam: There are 6 lines to the mainsail that let you adjust how much the sail is unfurled.


Any comments for future guests?

Kari: Keep your packing simple and plan to ditch the electronics! My phone ended up not working in the USVI, and it was the best thing possible. It turns out, I can survive without doing the daily Wordle, although I enjoyed watching Skip and Christine duke it out over who got it in the fewest guesses!


Alma: The anchor chain being hauled in is really loud if you’re still sleeping.


Liam: Sleep under your hatch with your hatch open so you will wake up if it starts raining.


Dan: Get involved in handling the lines, and taking the helm. It’s really fun and it’s not that hard. A little intimidating at first, but you pick it up pretty quickly.



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Guest #9: Lori Schonebaum

Dates: March 26 thru March 31

Location: Sint Maarten/Saint Martin

Background: Lori and Christine were sorority sisters and room mates at the University of Illinois, not so long ago. We missed our third buddy, Laurie Kane, who was going to join, but fell ill days before departure.



What was your favorite part of the trip?

I don’t know if I can narrow it down to one favorite part. The entire trip was fantastic!! Of course, the boat is simply amazing! AMAZING!!! I loved waking up each morning to sunshine and oatmeal outdoors. I loved being barefoot almost 24/7. I loved the relaxing pace. I loved sailing from bay to bay. The stars at night are beautiful. The silence is spectacular. The water is the most turquoise blue I’ve ever seen. It was fun standing on the beach being buzzed by the planes landing at SMX airport. I enjoyed going into the towns of St. Maarten, Marigot, and Philipsburg. I loved relaxing on the boat, talking and playing games. But maybe my favorite part was just spending time with my great college roomie, Chris, and Dale and Megan.


What was your least favorite part of the trip?

I’d say that leaving was my least favorite part, followed by coming home to 40 degree weather and rain. The only other thing I didn’t like was getting in and out of the dinghy. Between my bad balance and fear of taking that ‘leap of faith’, I ended up sitting and ’scooching’. I’m not proud of it, but the Helios crew was patient. If they were laughing, they did it very discretely. :-)


What surprised you most?

What surprised me most is that I didn’t get sea sick. Between patches and Dramamine, I avoided ’the bucket’. In fact, I liked being rocked to sleep with the hatches open. It was much calmer than I anticipated. I was also surprised at just how blue the water was…so beautiful. Oh, and I’m surprised that I (the person who calls golf or a brisk walk around the block a tough workout) was able to swim from boat to shore at one beach without drowning. :-)


What was something you learned about sailing?

I learned that I’m a terrible crew member. In fact, I’m surprised they let me keep the Helios Crew T-shirt. :-). I’m not a heights fan, so when outside the boat, I held onto everything with a death grip. I did help Chris let out some rope while she brought the sail in. That was my big contribution. Hopefully they found me more helpful in the galley. But, I did learn where the water maker is and how it works. I learned how to use the monitors to see other boats, where they are, and how fast they’re going. I learned how the real crew drops and brings up the anchor and uses the bridle. I learned that one needs to be careful taking barnacles off the boat lest they be found in weird places (and no, that wasn’t me).


Any comments for future guests?

If invited, go!! Don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Pack less. Keep your eyes on Dale and Chris when playing games. They cheat. HaHa.



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Guests #8: Sharon, Steve & Alyssa Jaster

Dates: March 14 thru March 17

Location: St. Kitts/Nevis

Background: Sharon is Christine's favorite sister who lives only 20 minutes from her. Alyssa was on spring break from Choate Rosemary Hall. Steve is the sneaky master of Settler's of Catan game, which we played multiple times.



What was your favorite part of the trip?

Sharon: (1) hanging out with my big sister, (2) spending the last night in Shitten Bay listening to baby goats, looking for shooting stars, then spending the last morning in the dinghy pulling the others on knee boards/paddle boards; (3) snorkeling and seeing a million conch shells, fish and even a turtle; (4) enjoying Christine’s yummy cooking!


Steve: (a.) Knee boarding & paddle boarding behind the dingy. (b.) Jumping off the side of the boat & just swimming in the bay. (c.) Winning both Skull King & Settlers on the last night of the stay.


Alyssa: I really liked all of the down time on the boat, whether we were playing games, eating any of the amazing meals, or just laying out in the sun.


What was your least favorite part of the trip?

Sharon: Getting seasick while sailing against the wind over giant waves as we circumnavigated around Nevis


Steve: (a.) Listening to Megan & Alyssa about trying to do a flip off the side of the boat.

(b.) It was a little hard to fall asleep the first two nights.


Alyssa: My least favorite part of the trip was the same as my mom’s! I didn’t plan on being attached to the bucket the entire time we sailed against the wind, and I wish I had looked up more often to take in the scenery!


What surprised you most?

Sharon: The amount of storage on the boat, the amount of sailing knowledge that all of the Simonsons have, and the number of people who can fit on the dinghy!


Steve: (a.) The boat was much larger than I expected - especially the cabins & the main living area. (b.) The boat rocked much less than I expected - very smooth most of the time. (c.) There was a lot more wind than I expected. One could fart all day on deck & nobody would notice (in theory only, of course).


Alyssa: I think I was surprised at the size of the rooms and the amount of storage, as well as the weather. I was expecting really tiny rooms but the beds were gigantic! I also didn’t expect the weather to change so frequently between sunny, rainy, and windy!


What was something you learned about sailing?

Sharon: I learned that there is a big difference between sailing with the wind and against the wind! I prefer sailing with the wind!


Steve: (a.) Anchor positioning - amount of chain to let out vs. depth of water. (b.) It is much more computerized than I expected - lots of information for the sailors.


Alyssa: I learned how to assist with the raising/lowering of the sails and also learned some new names for equipment/acronyms for different sailing terms.


Any comments for future guests?

Sharon: Stay on the fly bridge when sailing against the wind. Do not go to your cabin for even one minute - you will regret it! Keep your hatches open at night so you can enjoy the breeze, see the moon and stars, and hear the sounds of nature. And enjoy every minute of the Simonsons’ amazing hospitality! So fun!


Steve: (a.) We had a great time - try to meet with the Simonsons if you can do it.


Alyssa: Wake up earlier than I did! I wish I had gone in the water more often, especially in the morning when everyone else seemed to go!!



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Guests #7: Staci Glovsky & Mike Vargas



Dates: March 4 thru March 12

Location: Antigua/Barbuda/St. Kitts

Background: Staci and Christine have been friends since they met in business school at UCLA's Anderson School of Management and have traveled together to the Grand Canyon, Africa and Japan. Staci's husband, Mike, also graduated from the Anderson School of Management.


What was your favorite part of the trip?

Staci: I loved spending time with Dale and Christine and getting to know Megan. We live so far apart that I don’t often have a lot of time with the Simonsons. Spending days together was a lot of fun. I loved watching the Simonson’s work together and hearing them strategize everything related to getting prepared for and then sailing. The sunsets were amazing – as well as catching the occasional rainbow. I also liked that every day was different. Some sailing days were smooth, and one was pretty rocky. It was nice to experience both. And the day on the white sand beach in Barbuda and hiking in Antigua were great too.


Mike: It was my first opportunity to spend extended time with Dale, Christine and Megan - more than just a couple days. It was really great to play and work together as a team. I learned several new board and card games (the family is very good at them), we all discovered the definitions of a few words during my first time playing Cards Against Humanity (urbandictionary.com), movie nights, making dinners and even doing dishes together. It felt like one big family.


There was also a moment when we were out on open water on the way to St. Kitts and I was up on the sky bridge. The boat was gently rocking in the waves, the sun was out, and a warm Caribbean breeze made the temperature perfect. At that moment I felt absolutely relaxed and in touch with nature in a way I haven't felt in a long time. It was a truly blissful moment of zen...


Oh, and the Nutella filled cookies deserve an honorable mention.


What was your least favorite part of the trip?

Staci: I enjoyed every minute on the boat! Probably my least favorite part was joining the Helios and returning home. Coming from Los Angeles, it was a 2-day journey both ways. And of course the plane delay on the flight home was a bummer. I had no problem with “if it’s yellow, let it mellow,” but I didn’t want to flush the toilet at night because I didn’t want to wake anyone up. Docking with heavy winds in the marina in St. Kitts was a bit scary. And getting sunburned was not fun.


Mike: On the boat you have to be smart about conserving water. One example is when showering, you use a cycle of quick burst of water on your body, then soap up. Another burst of water, rinse off. Repeat. This results in a period of time between first turning on the shower, when the water is pretty icy cold, and when the water becomes nice and warm. This "warm point" usually coincides with when you have finished getting clean. You then have to make a decision. Do I use a bit of extra water unnecessarily, to feel the pleasant flow over my shivering naked body, or am I a team player and leave the hot water for others? This is an exercise left to the reader. I believe sailors call this experience the "Blue Squall".


What surprised you most? Staci: The technology on the boat was amazing. AIS provides so much information for sailing including the weather, other boats, sea depth, and so much more. It was great that you could sail from the lower deck or the fly deck. Of course you need to be outside to change the sails, but putting the boat on auto-pilot and watching from the lower deck was amazing. The catamaran seemed a lot easier to sail than I initially thought. Of course Dale, Megan and Christine are highly skilled and made it look easier than it probably was. The boat has so much space, and every inch is optimized. It seemed like the boat had nearly everything needed in a home. Four bedrooms, each with its own bathroom, a ton of storage space for clothes and other items, and the kitchen. Aside from the size, it was like cooking at home.


Mike: I don't have any real experience on a boat like Helios and when I saw it from the outside it was hard to imagine how comfortable and spacious it is. It's pretty tricked out with everything you need - a great kitchen, each room has its own bath with shower, and storage for pretty much everything you'd want. It was a really great home away from home.


I was also a bit surprised, as well as thankful, that I didn't barf during some of the rougher parts of the trip...

What was something you learned about sailing?

Staci: The rigging of the sails. The calculations used to determine where Helios would sail as well as how to avoid collisions with other boats.


Mike: I've only really sailed as a passenger and never really had to learn how to sail, so it was all pretty new to me. The family was great about explaining the mechanisms on the boat and how it all works together. Being a techie, I was blown away by all the cool technology for navigating, getting information on other boats and the weather, the auto-pilot system etc. I also learned a bit of math for doing calculations such as wind speed and angles, and navigation. During the trip my wife and I were able to pitch in to help sail, with big assists from the family.

Any comments for future guests?

Staci: Bring chocolate with you, and I recommend at least a 2 lb. box of See’s Candy. Think about the number of days you’ll be on the boat and make sure you have enough for every night. Bring sailing gloves. Although they are not needed most of the time, it is good to have them for certain situations. Try the paddle boards. I had never been on a paddle board and it was easy and fun. Learn sailing terms before you arrive, and you might try practicing a few of the knots. The Simonsons are great teachers and are very patient. But there are a lot of terms and you’ll be able to follow along better if you do some homework ahead of time. Bring lots of bathing suits and undergarments (and some plastic clothing pins). You will likely change at least twice each day. It can get windy, so make sure you have a sweatshirt if it does. Wear sunscreen even if you don’t think it is sunny or that you will need it. The sun is very strong, and it is easy to get burned. If you go in and out of the water, re-apply sunscreen each time. Bring a few games. Each night was a game or movie night, and it is fun to learn a new game. Christine said it early on, and it was great advice. Always hold on to something. It is easy to fall when the boat is moving, especially when you are sailing against the wind.


Mike: A few practical items. Bring sailing / work gloves. If you help work some of the riggings it'll keep your hands safe. If you are staying in a hotel on your way back to the US, call and see what options they have for Covid testing. It may make sense to do it there rather than buy tests and bringing them. Have a light rain jacket for the inevitable squalls - they come and go quickly. Bone up on your game playing. The Simonsons play to win.



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Guests #6: Tim Woodland and Greg Yoch


Dates: Feb. 25 thru March 3

Location: Guadeloupe/Antigua

Background: Tim, Greg and Dale were the Three Musketeers in high school in MN. This was Tim's second trip on Helios, as the first time aboard, he was with his wife and son when we were sailing along the Spanish coast. With Greg aboard this time, together with Tim, it was a trip down high school memory lane.




What was your favorite part of the trip?

Tim: How is it possible to narrow it down to a single favorite? I have memories and experiences that will last for a long time. Simply cannot beat 3 high school friends being able to hang out together for a week. That's the photo that needs to be shared.


One memor.y...The one that comes to the top of my mind is swimming with the dolphins with Megan in the harbor at Deshaies on Guadeloupe. Family of 5 dolphins doing laps in the harbor. Megan with her fins and GoPro. Treading water in the late afternoon sun. Magic.


Greg: Sailing together as a crew.


What was your least favorite part of the trip?

Tim: Ha! These islands are rainy. Lots of short lived rain showers and rainbows. Go to sleep with the hatch open, directly above the bed, wake up to rain on my face, close the hatch, reopen the hatch when the room gets warm and stuffy, go to sleep, wake up to rain on my face, repeat.


Greg: Three days without luggage (I got it back in Malendure).


What surprised you most?

Tim: Not a surprise, but awesome to see. Teamwork. The Simonson team is seamless. I guess they should be after being together on the boat for 6+ months! Raising the main, dropping anchor, making lunch ... they all know what they're doing and doing it together!


Greg: The boat was very comfortable with a great layout and a good amount of space. I had my own bedroom and bathroom!


What was something that you learned about sailing?

Tim: Reefing the sail. The sail / mast can only take a maximum amount of wind. So, to protect the sail/mast you can reef down the sail (e.g., not raise it the full height). Reef 1, 2 or 3. Need to be aware of the wind speed and potential gusts.


Greg: Pretty much everything was new for me including learning about the lines and the sails and the electronics. A catamaran is the way to go!


Any comments for future guests?

Tim: Don't miss out. Come sailing with Skip, Christine, and Megan!!!


Greg: I should have packed lighter. I did find Dramamine Non-Drowsy useful in our exciting crossing from Guadeloupe to Antigua. Always ask what you can do to help because there is usually something. Enjoy the opportunity to relax and connect.




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Guest #5: Alex Mantel

Dates: Feb. 16 thru Feb 21

Location: Guadeloupe

Background: Alex is a senior in high school and swam with Megan on the high school swim team.



Last July, Megan and I were hanging out in downtown Naperville before she was going to leave for her gap year a few weeks later. We were sitting in Coldstone eating our ice cream talking, and I was so fascinated by her trip that I asked her an endless stream of questions about it. While we were talking, she mentioned that her and her family would be having guests on the boat and offered to have me on the boat at some point if I wanted to come. At first, I couldn’t believe it. I was so thrilled that I could meet up with Megan and live on the boat for a week. It was straight out of a dream! And immediately after that I was on google searching for our school district’s calendar to find the perfect long weekend for me to visit.


Since that afternoon at Coldstone, I counted down the weeks until I would be able to visit the Simonsons. I strategically planned the trip for a long weekend in February - I’d be missing a minimal amount of school because of the day off, it’d be during second semester after I finished all my college applications, and it was right before water polo season started, so it was the best time to visit. In January, I started to worry about covid possibly ruining the trip. There was a massive covid surge worldwide, and my family and I became unsure if covid policies would change while I was on the trip and affect my entry or exit, but thankfully everything worked out and I had the best week ever in Guadeloupe.


Although I wish I could, I can’t fit every detail of the trip into this blog post. Instead, I’ll illustrate some of the most memorable moments from the trip. Even choosing only a few moments is extremely difficult because I made so many lifelong memories, but here is a list of some of the high points that came to mind:


  1. My first hour on Helios

I can’t put into words how awestruck I was when I first arrived in Guadeloupe. Coming from a suburb of Chicago, where at the time there was an ice storm that resulted in school being cancelled, and going to beautiful, sunny Guadeloupe was relieving and exciting. I appreciated every single seagull I heard and every single wave I saw - I was thankful to be surrounded by seagulls and waves instead of snowbanks and black ice. The Simonsons picked me up from shore on the dinghy and then brought me to Helios, and I still remember how unbelievably happy I was feeling the spray of the ocean on my face on my first dinghy ride. For months I saw Helios thorough pictures, but now I was finally there! As I unpacked, I spent a lot of time looking around my room and at the surroundings of the boat because I was so thrilled to live on the boat for the next 5 days. Right from the start (and for the rest of the trip), I felt very comfortable and at peace staying on the boat.


  1. Leaving Pointe-A-Pitre

On the second day we left an anchorage near Pointe-A-Pitre for an anchorage further south, and this was my first (and longest and roughest) sail. Heading into the trip, I was so confident that I wouldn’t get seasick because I’ve never gotten seasick before. I was wrong. About an hour into the sail I started to feel really seasick. At the time, the feeling was horribly uncomfortable and intolerable, but looking back at myself sitting in a ball with a bucket next to me makes me laugh a little. I’ll definetly never forget that awful feeling!


  1. Night at Terre-de-Haut

On the second night, we went on shore to Terre-de-Haut, and that’s where I first encountered the randomness of store hours. We arrived on shore and Megan and I roamed around the town shopping, and then we tried going out to eat at around 5:30/6 but no restaurants opened until around 7 except for one that was open for tapas. We sat down at that restaurants, had some food, and then left to look around the shops again before we sat down for dinner, except while we were eating, all of the shops closed for the night! We finally found a restaurant open for dinner and had really good food. Terre-de-Haut had some really nice shops and was a beautiful place to walk around and eat at. The sunset that night was gorgeous as well.


  1. Paddleboarding

Megan and I took out the paddleboards one day and paddled around the boat, and then after paddling we spent 20 minutes repeatedly trying to balance on the paddleboards and then falling into the water. Megan attempted headstands, and I attempted the tree pose, and while we did find our balance a few times, most of our attempts ended with us toppling over. We got a lot of good laughs out of it though!



  1. Sleeping outside in hammocks

One of my favorite memories is when Megan and I slept outside in hammocks one night. I had never slept in a hammock before and had one of the best sleeps of my life. It was super calming falling asleep under a thick and fuzzy blanket while being rocked by the wind. The moon and the stars were super bright that night too, and it was cool to look out at the ocean and stare at the islands and boats under the moonlight.


  1. Game nights

A couple nights after we ate dinner, the Simonsons and I sat outside and played cards. I had so much fun learning new card games and playing together! My favorite one that I learned was definitely golf.


  1. Pigeon Island

Pigeon Island is home to one of Jacques Cousteau’s underwater reserves, so we went snorkeling and saw beautiful reefs and fish. Megan and I spent a while swimming around the reserve and even followed a few really unique fish while they swam. We saw one fish in particular that was super cool - it was teal with hints of purple.


  1. Stargazing

On the very last night of my stay, we went on shore for dinner at a very nice pizza place, and on our way back to the boat, we noticed the sky was very clear. Megan and I decided that we wanted to go stargazing, so we sat on the upper deck and turned our heads in all directions to look at every corner of the sky. Megan had a really cool app that would show us which constellations we were looking at if we pointed her phone at the sky (it used a gps to locate the position of the stars relative to us), so we were able to name and see so many constellations. Now that I’m back home, I don’t see the stars nearly as much, but one constellation I do see often is Orion’s belt. Every time I see it, I stop and stare to imagine that I’m back on the boat.

These 8 highlights are only some of my favorite moments; I had the most amazing time! I’m so glad to have stayed on Helios and am very thankful for the Simonson’s hospitality!





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Guests #4: Lilian and Dave Ficht


Dates: Jan 29 thru Feb 7

Location: Grenada/Carriacou

Background: Lilian and Christine's family have been friends since they were in grade school. They attended weekly Chinese School together for many years.


What was your favorite part of the trip?

Dave: The company was great. I really enjoyed the night sailing. Bouncing through the water into the dark night with a clear and beautiful sky above.


LiIian: I cannot name a single favorite part!! The absolute best part was spending time with Christine, Dale, and Megan, and enjoying their wonderful hospitality and patient teaching. Other memorable highlights included a by-chance drinks and dinner on the beach at Tim's Sunset Beach Bar and Grill at Anse Le Roche beach of Carriacou Island, Grenada; snorkeling in the protected marine area of Sandy Island, Grenada; night sailing under the stars, and day sailing under the beautiful Helios tradewind sail (Dale's favorite)!

What was your least favorite part of the trip?

Dave: At times the aroma from “if it’s yellow – let it mellow” got a little strong. 😊


Lilian: Getting seasick the first afternoon, although not as much as I expected, thank goodness!

What surprised you most?

Dave: How generally easy it was to hoist and reef sails. Also, the amount of comforts and space on the boat. Stove, oven, microwave, multiple refrigerators, fresh water, shower …


Lilian: How noisy night sailing is when the waves hit the hulls.


What was something you learned about sailing?

Dave: During the night watch with Christine, I learned the agony of having no wind and struggling to get the boat up to 2 knots/hr and 10 minutes later, finding wind and worrying that we had too much sail out. Wind and weather conditions can change fast and that makes the sailing experience all the more exciting. I have some more homework to do as I did not master a Bowline knot.


Lilian: How such an ancient technique can be adapted for the modern day, yet still connect you so much to nature and to each other.


Any comments for future guests?

Dave: Bring a book or two. There is plenty of time to relax. Bring a game, I suspect Christine will play. If you are new to sailing as I was, ask questions. Your hosts are great teachers


Lilian: Say "yes" to every new experience and try it!! Also, If you tend to get seasick, start Dramamine two days before you leave, and double it up with scopolamine patches - much more effective. And, be forewarned when Christine suggests playing a board game. :)


Some of many highlights:

Dave:

  • Learning a little about sailing and the sailing lingo. I enjoyed thumbing through your library and did not make it as far as I would have liked on a few of the books. I will probably buy the weather system book as I did get very deep into it.

  • Beautiful rainbows.

  • Sleeping on a gently rocking boat. Most night and nap times were just the perfect amount of rocking.

  • Dinners on the boat and eating outside.

  • Tea and Snacks at the Phare Bleu Marina.

  • Visiting the 7 Sisters waterfall.

  • The night sail. The sailing, the darkness, and stars.

  • Dinner and the cookout at Tim’s. Music and Tiki torches.

  • Watching “Pirates of the Caribbean” on a boat in the Caribbean. I really got a kick out of this.

  • Snorkeling.

  • Paddle Boarding. Learned that I need to work on my balance. Lilian will tell me I need to work on my core

  • Learning (re-learning) cribbage. This could be a good backpacking game.



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Guests #3: Claire, Mary, Lindsey, and Emma



Dates: Jan 1 thru Jan 10

Location: St. Lucia

Background: Claire and Mary are 2 of Megan's friends from back home. Lindsey is the fourth member of our family (Megan's twin sister), choosing to start college instead of spending a year aboard Helios. Emma is one of Lindsey's good friends from high school.


What was your favorite part of the trip?

Claire: There are many highlights of this trip, so I’ll name a few of my favorite moments…

  1. Seeing Megan & Mary’s huge smiling faces as I got out of my taxi following a 10 hour travel day and hour long taxi ride (potentially the most relieved I’ve ever felt-my first solo international flight!)

  2. Meeting Frosty the Snowman—and a plethora of other interesting new faces.

  3. The complete double rainbow over Pitons Bay. It was then I knew my late Grandpa was looking down and smiling.

  4. Reaching the summit of Petit Piton! What a humbling and exhilarating climb (easily the scariest thing I've ever done—although I would gladly do it again!.) The pictures don’t do it justice. Shout out Mr. Simonson for being the quickest up and down the mountain!

  5. Receiving “awards” on our last night and reminiscing on funny moments and memories of the trip.

Mary: Even though Emma was awarded the “Most Indecisive Award,” I am a close runner up after trying to think of my favorite part of the trip. The past ten days were each so fun in their own ways. Since I can’t choose one, here are some of my favorite moments: hiking Petit Piton, snorkeling at Anse Cochan, dancing at the bow of the boat by Sandals, playing golf (the card game), sailing with the Helios sail, backflipping, the award ceremony, and so much more.


Lindsey: It was cool to see where my family has been living for the past 6 months, so I'm glad I visited for that reason. However, my all time favorite part of the trip was when I finally caught a jellyfish (they are harder to catch than you'd think). It was really cute and floppy and soft, and it was weird to feel it swimming around in my hands. I also really liked feeding the sea creatures that would come up to our boat at night because of our underwater lights.

What was your least favorite part of the trip?

Claire: This one took some thought…probably all the Covid restrictions getting to and from the US. Although I wouldn’t have minded another week on Helios.


Mary: The only part of the trip where I was a little freaked out was when Megan, Claire, and I were swimming back to the boat from this one beach. We were dodging about a dozen jelly fish on our swim back, and I was very concerned. However, I later found out I was just being dramatic since Lindsey researched that that type of jellyfish are actually harmless.

Lindsey: I didn't like the bathroom situation. Usually, I enjoy long hot showers, and I personally found my dad's saying "if it's yellow let it mellow" disgusting. I'd prefer to know that a toilet has nothing but water in it before approaching it. I had to break many of my usual bathroom related habits during my trip which was kinda rough.


What surprised you the most?

Claire: How much space there was, and how easy it is to live in such close quarters with 7 people onboard.


Mary: I didn’t realize before going on the boat how self sufficient you have to be on the boat. I learned this quickly the first day when Mr. Simonson explained how the water tanks work and how it is best to conserve water. Same goes for the lights and using power too. I was also surprised how often something would break for such a new and nice boat. Lindsey: Honestly, nothing really surprised me that much. I've sailed with my family on similar boats before, so not much had changed since then. If I had to choose, it was probably when Emma told me she saw a lion fish (which I later confirmed). I haven't seen one in such shallow water before and also they are invasive species so that's probably bad... Either way it was pretty cool.

What was something you learned about sailing?

Claire: Well…I must admit I learned just how much I don’t know about sailing. I wish I could have been more help, but watching the talented father daughter duo of Megan and Mr. Simonson was quite inspirational. They were always more than willing to share their knowledge, but at times, it still felt like they were speaking a different language...


Mary: I think Claire may have said this as her answer, but I definitely learned how little I knew about sailing. I’ve always loved being around boats, but Helios is in a whole other category! There is so much that goes into sailing: the lines, the different sails, knowing the difference between what the “halyard” and the “Jib”- two totally different things, that took me about a week to learn.


Lindsey: I learned that sailing is too much work. My sister was constantly running around trying to fix random boat problems, or coiling ropes, or watching out for buoys. I guess boat life is fine for a week or so, but I could never survive it for longer.


Any comments for future guests?

Claire: Future guests-savor every moment of your time spent on Helios! It flies by!


Mary: At night, keep your hatch open if the forecast shows no rain, if not, make sure your fan is turned on. Something I learned from someone else’s mistake… One of my favorite moments was the award ceremony on the last night we were all on Helios. This was such an awesome way to end our trip by remembering all of the funny, adventurous, and memorable moments of the week!


Lindsey: Climb the mast! It's a great time. Nice views from the top, and it's fun to look down and see how tiny everyone looks. I was so high up that it took a while to identify which boat's mast I was currently on since there were other boats around us that looked so close to ours.


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Guests #2: THE SWEDES


Dates: Monday October 4 thru Wednesday October 13, 2021

Location: La Linea, Spain (Gibraltar) pickup // Las Palmas, Canary Islands dropoff

Background: Henrik Sorstedt and Anna Jonsson are cousins living in Gothenburg and Stockholm Sweden respectively. Henrik is Dale's distant cousin (3rd cousin?), but their families have stayed in regular contact over the years. Anna spent a summer with us in Chicago as a teenager 16 years ago to experience life in America. Serendipity and a healthy dose of spontaneity brought the two of them aboard Helios for their first real sailing adventure as we sought crew to assist with our passage to the Canary Islands off the coast of Morocco.


What was your favorite part of the trip?

Anna: The trip was like a Kinder Surprise Egg - three (or more, really) elements in one: seeing the Simonsons again after 16 years, being on a sail boat for the first time ever (not just a regular sail boat but huge-Helios), learning some things about sailing, night watch-excitements and having a sunny, relaxing vacation - all in one trip!


Henrik: Apart from reconnecting with the Simonsons; The last evening in Lanzarote when we took a quick decision to do an overnight sail to Las Palmas. We decided on solo night shifts while the others slept. It was awesome to stand alone at night at the helm of such a huge boat, under the milky way and feel you had learnt so much during the week to feel you are in control.


What was your least favorite part of the trip?

Anna: The way my personality changes when struggling with expressing myself in English (it happens everytime I find myself in English speaking contexts). Thank you for understanding most of what I say. Also, I could not help out with the sailing as much as I had wanted to. [ Editor's note: on the contrary, Anna, the fact that you took the 4am - 6am solo watch was golden! ]


Henrik: The dramatic first night (when the life raft broke loose) sailing in rough seas was an eye-opener. The brute powers of the large sails and strong winds are also a bit scary. Great forces are in play and anything can happen. Check out my last comment to future guests….


What surprised you the most?

Anna: How many things break and need to be fixed - even on a brand new boat. [ Editor's note: Yes, Anna, every boat owner knows that fact! ]


Henrik: How convenient the boat was and how much was electrified and automatic (thanks heaven), compared to my old experience sailing much smaller boats. Also, if not surprised, but impressed: how calm the Simonsons are under pressure.


What was something you learned about sailing?

Anna: The bearing to on-coming ships is important (still don’t get all of it, though)


Henrik: It was fascinating to get a glimpse of the huge international community of people sailing full time and living another life. Crossing the seas, going around the globe and living onboard for many years. Really a social and friendly bunch.


Any comments for future guests?

Anna: Wear gloves! Ropes can burn.


Henrik: The kitchen has everything, bring ingredients for your favourite meal, cookie or cake. Everything tastes better on an outdoor adventure and gets very appreciated after some days at sea. Make sure the shoes you intend to use on deck has very good grip and not slippery dried plastic/rubber. Bring earplugs for better sleep when sailing all night. Read through some online resources on Sailing terms like this https://tulasendlesssummer.com/sailing-terms-beginners/ and you will better be able to decipher the lingo onboard.

Finally: Never work with any ropes attached to a sail without gloves…




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Guests #1: THE WOODLAND FAMILY



Dates: Sunday September 12 thru Saturday September 18, 2021

Location: Cartagena, Spain pickup // Ibiza City, Spain dropoff

Background: Tim is Dale's (Skip's) pal from high school days in Minnesota. Tim, his wife Nancy, and their son Finn had the distinction of being our first guests aboard Helios. Kudos to them for navigating the international COVID travel restrictions, for dealing with the logistics challenges of tracking us down along the Mediterranean coast of Spain (we didn't quite get to the Plan A pick-up location of Valencia), and for braving our still questionable sailing prowess.


Touring Cartagena, Spain on Day 1:


Enjoying Boat Life


What was your favorite part of the trip?

Nancy: My favorite part was swimming in the gorgeous blue water with fish all around. It was so warm, but refreshing and clear enough to see bottom far far below. Getting up and diving in was the perfect start to the day.


Tim: I loved the peace of sailing. I could spend hours just sitting up on the fly bridge watching the waves, enjoying the wind (and keeping an eye on the radar!). I also loved the "pirate swimmers" -- what I called the people who swam out to admire the boat and talk with us and enjoy the beer Skip offered them.


Finn: I loved swimming and playing around the boat, and the added quiet time throughout the day was refreshing. I felt very relaxed living on Helios for the week, and it was wonderful to share that time with the Simonson family.


What was your least favorite part of the trip?

Nancy: Ice. :-) I drink A LOT of ice-water and having something really cold in the hot hot weather was lovely when available. And the mild sea-sickness I had during our overnight sail when I got to do my shift with Christine.


Tim: Leaving.


Finn: I wish I could have been more helpful with the sailing! I had no experience sailing prior to our time on the boat, and was worried about getting in the way. Granted, there wasn’t always a ton of activity during the times when we were sailing (and the winds weren’t always optimal), but I perhaps I should have made myself more available to help when necessary :)


What surprised you the most?

Nancy: The idea that Orca whales like to "play" with sailboats and destroy their rudders. Also, how easy it was to sleep soundly because of the rocking of the waves. Also, very surprised about the challenge of being allowed on shore. It didn't occur to me we wouldn't be able to access land for days on end and that there wouldn't be public access points to take a dingy. Reminded me of the inequity of waterfront access for folks who live in these port communities.


Tim: Needing to clean the boat due to salt spray and dirty air.


Finn: I was surprised by how much the boat felt like a home. There was plenty of space and accommodations that made it seem more like a house on water than a sailboat. I had plenty of privacy when I wanted it, and was able to turn my space into my own for the few days that I was there.


What was something you learned about sailing?

Nancy: That the sails and lines are just as important as you might think they are AND sometimes loud noises really do mean something is amiss. :-) Mostly though I experienced sailing wing on wing in the dark and that was a little magical alongside Christine.


Tim: I loved learning about the water desalination system.


Finn: I learned about tack and jibe turns, and got a better concept of how to sail with different wind speeds and directions. I definitely have tons more to learn, but the Simonson’s made the information very understandable for someone like me with little experience.


Any comments for future guests?

Nancy: Consider your comforts and habits alongside the waste you are generating and the resources you are using. It's eye-opening to think seriously about how the boat needs to generate all of it's own electricity, water etc when not in a marina.


Tim: Bring a towel that is quick-dry. Check out

https://seatosummitusa.com/collections/quick-dry-towels


Finn: Don’t be afraid to ask questions - the Helios crew are great teachers. Also maybe bring an item or hobby that you’d like to try to start. I learned how to make more complex friendship bracelets, and walked away front the trip with four new bracelets and a new hobby!








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